Sunday’s trip to Anfield to face Liverpool fills me with a sense of grim foreboding, particularly after last week’s woeful showing at Stoke City.
Two wins from two matches would at least have given us a little insulation from the possibility of a hiding but, having squandered the chance to claim three points against Mark Hughes’s hordes, we already find ourselves under pressure.
In reality, a defeat at Liverpool would not spell the end for the season, but a feeling of ‘here we go again’ would spread through the fanbase like herpes in a brothel, and that is something our battered and bruised followers could well do without.
Would I take a draw at this moment? Almost certainly yes, I would. A goalless draw would actually be a decent result, given our inability to keep a clean sheet these days, though I do accept that has much to do with Arsene Wenger’s needless tinkering with formations.
Given the overall attacking ethos of both Liverpool and Arsenal, however, I just can’t see it happening. While the absence of Coutinho will be notable for the Reds, it will be far from decisive as they have shown themselves capable of getting goals from a number of positions, and through a number of players.
As he was last season, Saido Mane could prove crucial. I hope that plans have been made for him because, if left to his own devices, he is more than capable of causing us big problems with his pace and power on the ball.
Above all though, our tendency to make glaring errors in key positions must be effaced. Elementary mistakes have already cost us a number of goals this season and we cannot afford to keep making them at the rate we have been. It is suicidal and leaves us constantly chasing to catch up.
While we don’t know what work has been done on the training ground in the last seven days to rectify or smooth that out, we do know that absolutely bugger all has gone on in the transfer market, at least in terms of players coming into the club.
Arsene is, as ever he does, wheeling out the ‘I’m happy with the squad’ line as we hurtle towards the end of the transfer window but it is increasingly evident that we are a couple of players short of where we need to be.
The sales of Wojciech Szczesny, Jon Toral and Gabriel, coupled with the loan moves for Carl Jenkinson, Emiliano Martinez and Cohen Bramall has at least freed up some space in the squad but, heavens above, Arsene need to get his backside in gear.
At the very least we need to shift a few more players, including Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs, and it wouldn’t be a disaster to cash in on Chuba Akpom, Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade Chamberlain if the money was right.
A thumping at Liverpool would at least sharpen the manager’s focus to go out and get these deals over the line but it simply shouldn’t need to come to that.
With the return of Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez, we should be both more solid at the back and more dangerous going forward, but, again, that will all depend on our ability to concentrate for the full 90 minutes. Any errors will be punished by a side of Liverpool’s quality, and we won’t be afforded the chance to recover so readily as we have done in the past.
I am trying to remain stoic about Sunday’s match but the Arsenal fan in me knows it is going to be tough. If we come away from Anfield with something more to show for our efforts than when we arrived, I will be pleased, but if we leave with tails between our legs, I won’t be surprised.